Give Thanks To The Lord


Psalm 136:1,26 (New Living Translation)

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Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Give all thanks and honor to the lord, for he is good his word is true and his faithfulness and love lives true and enduring forever his love is everlasting and faithfulness holds true

Read Psalm 136. Notice and count how many times the phrase “His love endures forever” was written. It is written in a way that in every declaration of God’s mighty act, there is a response. … It expresses deep gratitude to a God who never fails to fulfill His promise. God’s love will endure forever.Oct 12, 2017

Psalm 136 – God’s Never-Ending Mercy

Psalm 136 is a special psalm, with each one of its 26 verses repeating the sentence, His mercy endures forever. Psalm 118 repeated that affirmation five times. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the phrase has somewhat of a liturgical sense to it, as if the assembled people of Israel said or sung this in response to the direction of the Levites leading singing and worship. Ezra 3:11 indicates that this encouragement was part of a responsive singing among God’s people: And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.”

The sentence is used several other times in the Old Testament, each time in the context of some kind of public praise or declaration. His mercy endures forever is found:

• In David’s psalm of praise recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:7 (16:34).

• In the assignments of the priests in David’s day (1 Chronicles 16:41).

• In Israel’s praise at the dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 5:13, 7:3, 7:6).

• In the record of the LORD’s victory over the Ammonites as they praised (2 Chronicles 20:21).

• In the future praise by Israel after the destruction suffered in the Babylonian conquest (Jeremiah 33:10-11).

• In the dedication of Ezra’s temple (Ezra 3:11).

We picture a great multitude of the people of God gathered in the temple courts. A priest or Levite would call out a reason to give God thanks, and His people would respond with, “For His mercy endures forever.”

“In Jewish tradition Psalm 136 has been called the Great Hallel (or Great Psalm of Praise). It does not use the words hallelu jah, but it is called the Great Hallel for the way it rehearses God’s goodness in regard to his people and encourages them to praise him for his merciful and steadfast love.” (James Montgomery Boice)

A. The enduring mercy of God from the beginning of time.

1. (1-4) The enduring mercy of God in His essential nature, who He is.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!

For His mercy endures forever.

Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!

For His mercy endures forever.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!

For His mercy endures forever:

To Him who alone does great wonders,

For His mercy endures forever;

a. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good: As in the previous psalm, Psalm 136 gives thanks and praise to God for His goodness. The fact that God is good is fundamental to all that He is and does. We know that God is love (1 John 4:8 and 4:16), and that love is an expression of His goodness. This is a wonderful reason to give Yahweh thanks.

i. “Give thanks is not the whole meaning of this word…and therefore calls us to thoughtful, grateful worship, spelling out what we know or have found of God’s glory and his deeds.” (Kidner)

ii. “He is good beyond all others; indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people.” (Spurgeon)

iii. Because we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), we know something of what is good. However, we are fallen (Romans 5:19), and our knowledge of good is corrupted. Yet our entire concept of good is rooted in God and His goodness.

iv. Those who question God’s goodness do so according to some standard of what is good and what is evil. The very existence of that standard connects them to something beyond themselves – back to the Creator who made them in His image.

b. For His mercy endures forever: This is the first of 26 times this phrase is repeated in this psalm. It was probably the answer of the congregation of Israel to each first line spoken by the priests or Levites.

i. 1 Chronicles 16:37-41 suggests that His mercy endures forever was sung daily as part of the morning and evening sacrifices.

ii. “Most hymns with a solid, simple chorus become favourites with congregations, and this is sure to have been one of the best beloved.” (Spurgeon)

iii. The greatest demonstration of the always-enduring mercy of God was seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

c. His mercy endures forever: The declaration proclaims that God’s hesed (mercy) never ends and will always be given to His people.

i. Mercy is the translation of the great Hebrew word hesed, which may be understood as Yahweh’s grace, His loyal love, His covenant love unto His people. Some scholars have overemphasized its covenant aspect, taking too much feeling from the word. Hesed combines loyalty to a covenant with true love and mercy.

ii. For centuries it was translated with words like mercy, kindness, and love. In 1927, a scholar named Nelson Glueck (among others) argued that the real idea behind hesed was “covenant loyalty” and not so much love or mercy. However, many disagreed and there is no good reason for changing the long-held understanding of hesed and taking it as a word that mainly emphasizes covenant loyalty (see R. Laird Harris on hesed in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).

d. Give thanks to the God of gods…to the Lord of lords: Reasons are repeatedly found to thank and praise God. Here each reason is connected to who God is. He is greater than any of the supposed gods or lords of the nations. This idea may be drawn from Deuteronomy 10:17.

i. LORD…. God…. Lord: “The opening stanzas refer to the One to Whom reference is made throughout, by the three great names by which He as known: Jehovah, the title of grace (verse 1); Elohim, the name of might (verse 2); and Adonai, the title of sovereignty (verse 3).” (Morgan)

ii. The Lord of lords: “All lords in the plural are summed up in this Lord in the singular: he is more lordly than all emperors and kings condensed into one.” (Spurgeon)

e. To Him who alone does great wonders: God’s people were invited to praise Him as the God of true power and miraculous wonders. Most of the rest of this psalm describes many of these great wonders, that were and are an expression of His great mercy, His hesed to His people.

i. “The attributes here mentioned are those of ‘goodness’ and ‘power;’ the one renders him willing, the other able to save; and what can we desire more, but that he should continue to be so?” (Horne)

ii. “His works are all great in wonder even when they are not great in size; in fact, in the minute objects of the microscope we behold as great wonders as even the telescope can reveal.” (Spurgeon)

iii. It is true that God alone does great wonders, and the following lines tell us that creation is the beginning (not the end) of those wonders.

2. (5-9) The enduring mercy of God in His work as Creator.

To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,

For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,

For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who made great lights,

For His mercy endures forever—

The sun to rule by day,

For His mercy endures forever;

The moon and stars to rule by night,

For His mercy endures forever.

a. To Him who by wisdom made the heavens: Here the singer refers back to Genesis 1 and points to God’s creative work as a demonstration of His never-ending mercy to His people.

i. “The psalm looks at the story of Creation from an original point of view, when it rolls out in chorus, after each stage of that work, that its motive lay in the eternal lovingkindness of Jehovah. Creation is an act of Divine love.” (Maclaren)

ii. “As far back as the creation his eye had travelled, and all through the stormy, troubled days he could detect the silver thread of mercy. Oh that we had his eyes to see always the love of God!” (Meyer)

iii. “There are no iron tracks, with bars and bolts, to hold the planets in their orbits. Freely in space they move, ever changing, but never changed; poised and balancing; swaying and swayed; disturbing and disturbed, onward they fly, fulfilling with unerring certainty their mighty cycles. The entire system forms one grand complicated piece of celestial machinery; circle within circle, wheel within wheel, cycle within cycle.” (The Orbs of Heaven, cited by Spurgeon)

b. Laid out the earth above the waters: In this section, the work of God as Creator is described with elements from the first four days of creation (Genesis 1:1-19). Because each of these is an expression of His never-ending mercy toward His people, we can say that God created the heavens and the earth with His people in mind.

i. “The heavens above and the earth beneath declare the wisdom of their great Maker, and proclaim aloud, to an intelligent ear, the divinity of the hand that formed them. The heavens display the love of God to man; the earth teaches the duty of man to God.” (Horne)

ii. “Paul echoed the same truths in Lystra when he taught the Gentiles there that God ‘has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy’ (Acts 14:17).” (Boice)

iii. The theme of creation in this psalm “…invites the Christian not to wrangle over cosmological theories but to delight in his environment, known to him as no mere mechanism but a work of ‘steadfast love’. No unbeliever has grounds for any such quality of joy.” (Kidner)

B. The enduring mercy of God to His people.

1. (10-15) The enduring mercy of God in the deliverance from Egypt.

To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn,

For His mercy endures forever;

And brought out Israel from among them,

For His mercy endures forever;

With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm,

For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who divided the Red Sea in two,

For His mercy endures forever;

And made Israel pass through the midst of it,

For His mercy endures forever;

But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,

For His mercy endures forever;

a. To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn: The previous psalm mentioned the deliverance from Egypt and the striking of the firstborn (Psalm 135:8-9). Here again God is praised as the One who rescued Israel from their slavery and degradation in Egypt – another expression of His never-ending mercy.

i. The singer recounted God’s great wonders flowing seamlessly from the work of creation described in Genesis 1 to the work of deliverance described in Exodus. We rightly regard (or should regard) the Exodus account as historical, describing what really happened. Therefore, the context and flow of this psalm demonstrates that what God described in Genesis 1 really happened. The psalmist does not treat them differently, as if one were a legend and the other actual history.

b. To Him who divided the Red Sea in two: God did not only bring the Israelites out of Egypt, but He also delivered them from Pharaoh’s attempt to re-capture them. In mercy to Israel, God overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.

i. God’s use of history in this psalm is important. As in countless other places in the Scriptures, God used His work in the past to give hope, faith, and confidence to His people both for the moment and for the future.

ii. “The word for dividing the Red Sea is peculiar. It means to hew in pieces or in two, and is used for cutting in halves the child in Solomon’s judgment [1 Kings 3:25]; while the word ‘parts’ [two] is a noun from the same root, and is found in Genesis 15:17, to describe the two portions into which Abraham clave the carcasses. Thus, as with a sword, Jehovah hewed the sea in two, and His people passed between the parts, as between the halves of the covenant sacrifice.” (Maclaren)

iii. Overthrew Pharaoh and his army: “…as in Hebrew, shaked off. The word is applicable to a tree shaking off its foliage, Isaiah. 33:9. The same word is used in Exodus 14:27: ‘And the Lord overthrew (shook off) the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.’” (Barnes, cited in Spurgeon)

2. (16-22) The enduring mercy of God from the wilderness to the Promised Land.

To Him who led His people through the wilderness,

For His mercy endures forever;

To Him who struck down great kings,

For His mercy endures forever;

And slew famous kings,

For His mercy endures forever—

Sihon king of the Amorites,

For His mercy endures forever;

And Og king of Bashan,

For His mercy endures forever—

And gave their land as a heritage,

For His mercy endures forever;

A heritage to Israel His servant,

For His mercy endures forever.

a. To Him who led His people through the wilderness: This short statement is a reminder of many mighty and loving acts of God. Yahweh provided guidance, food, water, structure, leadership, healing, victory, and many other things to Israel through the wilderness.

i. “It was an astonishing miracle of God to support so many hundreds of thousands of people in a wilderness totally deprived of all necessities for the life of man, and that for the space of forty years.” (Clarke)

ii. “…through that vast howling wilderness, where there was neither way nor provision; through which none but the Almighty God could have safely conducted them.” (Poole)

iii. This was a great demonstration of God’s never-failing mercy. “Their conduct in the wilderness tested his mercy most severely, but it bore the strain; many a time he forgave them; and though he smote them for their transgressions, yet he waited to be gracious and speedily turned to them in compassion.” (Spurgeon)

b. To Him who struck down great kings: The previous psalm described the defeat of Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Bashan, as well as the giving of Canaan to Israel as a heritage (Psalm 135:10-12). These were all demonstrations of the never-ending mercy of God.

i. Great kings: “Great, as those times accounted them, when almost every small city had their king; Canaan had thirty and more of them. Great also in regard of their stature and strength; for they were of the giant’s race, Deuteronomy 3:11-13, Amos 2:9.” (Trapp)

ii. “The Lord who smote Pharaoh at the beginning of the wilderness march, smote Sihon and Og at the close of it.” (Spurgeon)

iii. And slew famous kings: “What good was their fame to them? As they opposed God they became infamous rather than famous. Their deaths made the Lord’s fame to increase among the nations while their fame ended in disgraceful defeat.” (Spurgeon)

3. (23-25) The enduring mercy of God in ongoing deliverance and help.

Who remembered us in our lowly state,

For His mercy endures forever;

And rescued us from our enemies,

For His mercy endures forever;

Who gives food to all flesh,

For His mercy endures forever.

a. Who remembered us in our lowly state: The song makes a sharp yet skillful transition from God’s great wonders of the past to His faithful help in the present. It is good for us to look to the past for evidence that His mercy endures forever, but even better for us to see the evidence in our own day.

i. “After all, ‘his steadfast love endures for ever’, and the refrain is designed to show the relevance of every act of God to every singer of the psalm.” (Kidner)

ii. Rescued us from our enemies: “Sin is our enemy, and we are redeemed from it by the atoning blood; Satan is our enemy and we are redeemed from him by the Redeemer’s power; the world is our enemy, and we are redeemed from it by the Holy Spirit.” (Spurgeon)

b. Who gives food to all flesh: The psalmist asked God’s people to praise and thank Him not only for His work as deliverer, but also as provider. This is more evidence of God’s never-ending mercy, which is extended to all flesh, not only to Israel.

i. Food to all flesh: “…by whose universal providence every intellectual and animal being is supported and preserved. The appointing every living thing food, and that sort of food which is suited to its nature, (and the nature and habits of animals are endlessly diversified,) is an overwhelming proof of the wondrous providence, wisdom, and goodness of God.” (Clarke)

ii. “He promised to Noah and to all ‘flesh’ to sustain it with his grace (cf. Genesis 9:8-17). Here the psalmist makes use of the word ‘flesh’…and thus makes an allusion to God’s promise (cf. Genesis 9:11, 15-17).” (VanGemeren)

4. (26) Gratitude to the God of enduring mercy.

Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!

For His mercy endures forever.

a. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven: In directing us to do this, the psalmist not only had in mind our appropriate gratitude, but also reminds us that the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the God of heaven. He is the God who really exists and really reigns.

i. God of heaven: “Therefore the final call to praise, which rounds off the psalm by echoing its beginning, does not name Him by the Name which implied Israel’s special relation, but by that by which other peoples could and did address Him, “the God of heaven,” from whom all good comes down on all the earth.” (Maclaren)

ii. “His mercy in providing heaven for his people is more than all the rest.” (Trapp)

b. For His mercy endures forever: The singer has given us many reasons to respond to God with this statement, and we are persuaded. The never-ending mercy of God – His lovingkindness, His grace, His loyal love – will never stop finding a way to bless and help His people.

i. “And do you suppose that such mercy is going to fail you? It endureth forever! You fret and chafe like a restless little child; but you cannot fall out of the arms of God’s mercy.” (Meyer)

ii. Spurgeon suggested many things that Psalm 136 as a whole teaches:

· The past, present, or future will not end His mercy.

· The storms of life will not end His mercy.

· Distance from loved ones will not end His mercy.

· Death itself will not end His mercy.

· God’s never-ending mercy should make us merciful to others.

· God’s never-ending mercy should make us hopeful for others.

· God’s never-ending mercy should make us hopeful for ourselves.

iii. “One night in February 358 A.D. the church father Athanasius held an all-night service at his church in Alexandria, Egypt. He had been leading the fight for the eternal sonship and deity of Jesus Christ, knowing that the survival of Christianity depended on it. He had many enemies – for political even more than theological reasons – and they moved the power of the Roman government against him. That night the church was surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords. People were frightened. With calm presence of mind Athanasius announced the singing of Psalm 136. The vast congregation responded, thundering forth twenty-six times, ‘His love endures forever.’ When the soldiers burst through the doors they were staggered by the singing. Athanasius kept his place until the congregation was dispersed. Then he too disappeared in the darkness and found refuge with his friends.” (Boice)

iv. “Many citizens of Alexandria were killed that night, but the people of Athanasius’s congregation never forgot that although man is evil, God is good. He is superlatively good, and ‘his love endures forever.’” (Boice)

(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik –

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